Dre Rivas September 15, 2010
Last week when Laremy and I were exchanging emails for our Movie Director Fantasy Draft, I pondered the future of M. Night Shyamalan. If Laremy and I had done this draft in 2003 after the release of Signs, M. Night Shyamalan would have been a guaranteed first-rounder, and whoever nabbed him would have been gloating in the other guy’s face. He was, after all — as Newsweek dubbed him — “The Next Spielberg.”
Instead, he’s turned into a Ryan Leaf-like bust. When your career is in a downward spiral everyone is able to look back and know when the meltdown happened, where and when you hit rock bottom. And damnit if The Last Airbender isn’t M. Night’s version of this.
There’s no question that the M. Night brand needs some major rehabilitation. Maybe Devil will help in that regard if it turns into some minor hit — who knows? But after The Village (a flawed film I like but am in the minority), Lady in the Water (a film I have decidedly mixed feelings about), The Happening (a movie so shockingly awful that it made me wonder if the guy who made The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs was even a real person), and universally hated (by those over 10 years old) The Last Airbender … every film Shyamalan directs will be met with some mixture of suspicion or stink-eye.
Ryan Leaf never really scored a comeback in his career (unless you count last year’s arrest). Shyamalan’s comeback is very much in play, however. Perhaps Shyamalan just needs to get out of his comfort zone a little, maybe direct someone else’s screenplay. It doesn’t mean he has to be a hack. Just find a screenplay he loves that isn’t written by M. Night Shyamalan. I’m thinking a heist picture would suit him well. Nothing supernatural; something more grounded in reality that we — and he — will be forced to take seriously. He’s shown a knack for strong character work, but lately his stuff just feels lazy.
And if he somehow wakes up to the fact that he is in a real artistic rut, he can turn it all around. Because he’s a major talent. Shyamalan needs a chaperone. He needs someone to take him aside and ask him what he’s thinking. Someone needed to be there on the set of The Happening and say “No! No! That Mark Wahlberg take was NOT OK! No!” Everyone needs that one person by their side who will help pull their head out when they’re too blind to see. For someone who has had as much success as Shyamalan has, this could be a tall order. For proof, look no further than the “yes men” who currently surround George Lucas.
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Dre writes for Film.com weekly.
Categories: No CategoriesTags: Devil, M. night shyamalan, The last airbender, The sixth sense